Fortnite returns to Apple devices via GeForce backdoor

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Fortnite is returning to iOS devices, but not in the App Store. Instead, it will be playable through the Safari mobile browser. GeForce Now, which is kicking off a closed beta test of the reworked mobile version of Fortnite next week.

Epic’s mega-hit battle royale Fortnite hasn’t been on the App Store since August 2020, when Apple removed it from the App Store. This was followed by the launch of a direct payment system in Fortnite that bypassed Apple’s own payment processing, and was charged by 30 percent. Epic boosts its internal payment system by offering Fortnite V-Bucks at a discount—but only if they’re purchased outright.

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It touched on a high-profile legal dispute between Epic and Apple that is still ongoing. Apple came out largely on top in the initial ruling, though Epic won on one big point: The court declared that Apple could not prevent app developers from using its “purchasing mechanism” with Apple. But the judge also ruled that the App Store agreement between Epic and Apple was valid and enforceable, and that Apple was within its rights to terminate the contract because Epic knowingly broke it—and when, after the verdict, Epic asked Apple to restore its developer accounts, Apple said no.

It seemed that the situation would persist for a long time. Apple said it would not allow Fortnite to return to the App Store until all appeals in the case have been exhausted, a process that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said could take up to five years. But the addition of a mobile version of Fortnite available through GeForce Now opens the door for Epic and Fortnite fans—a crackdown, at least—by bypassing not only Apple’s payment system, but the App Store altogether.

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Crucially, it’s not only the regular Fortnite Blast on your phone, but the “touch-friendly” version of the game developed by Nvidia and Epic. “While PC games in the GeForce Now library are best experienced on mobile with a gamepad, the introduction of touch controls built by the GeForce Now team provides more options for players starting with Fortnite,” Nvidia said.

“And we are just getting started. Cloud-to-mobile gaming is a great opportunity for publishers to get their games into the hands of more gamers with touch-friendly versions of their games. PC games or game engines, such as Unreal Engine 4, which supports Windows touch events, can easily enable mobile touch support on GeForce Now.”

Initial closed beta testing of Fortnite Mobile on GeForce Now begins next week, and will be open to all, although only a limited number of players will be admitted. You don’t need a GeForce Now account for this register for betaBut if you come in and really want to play you will. Fortunately, there will be either a free or Priority (paid) subscription.

It will be very interesting to see how Apple will respond to this maneuver. My guess is it won’t do anything: Standing legally apart, running Fortnite via GeForce Now is an added layer of complexity that will likely turn away gamers who aren’t overly tech-savvy. Fortnite is still absent from the App Store, and thus completely out of mind for a large portion of its potential audience. Committed Fortnite fans may be pleased to see it playable again on their iPhones (assuming the beta goes well) but I don’t think it will significantly change the big picture for Epic.

I’ve reached out to Apple and Epic for comment, and will update if I get an answer.

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